Some who live on the planet today remember a publication titled Grit. It defined itself as “America’s Greatest Family Newspaper.” During a good part of the 20th century, children and teenagers around the country made money by selling Grit subscriptions. With newspapers struggling these days, all the marketing changed. Now, I believe Grit is only sold in magazine format on a bimonthly basis.
These same children and teens also grew up helping raise money for groups like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. They still do. Overpriced popcorn and cookies generate a fair amount of revenue for these groups. And the young ones learn a valuable lesson in approaching people and asking for a sale. Unless, of course, parents simply put out signup forms or do the work for their kids.
I read a blog recently by Trey Tompkins from the healthcare field titled, “Thanks for not buying popcorn from my son.” The boy’s Cub Scout pack was doing their annual fundraising outside a home improvement store. Many customers politely declined the purchase. There’s always a group that simply wants to avoid all eye contact.
Trey’s son discovered that selling is a tough business. Persistence is the key. And as he told his father, “you have to let so many people tell you ‘No’ before you ever get someone to tell you ‘Yes.’”
Whether it’s a young person coming to our door, or that encounter at a retail store, I frequently buy what they’re selling. It depends on the kid and the product, but I admire the effort. Of course, I have to believe in the cause as well.
Something has changed in more recent years. Now I frequently find young folks outside of stores with their parents alongside asking for money — but not selling anything. Oh sure, they say the money is for the baseball team or cheerleading group or some choir trip. But frankly, I don’t see much difference between panhandlers in downtown Chicago trying to get me to pay for a meal.
I purposely included the word begging in the title of my blog for a bit of effect. Why should I be giving money for kids in my neighborhood to play baseball or go on a trip? When I was that age, my parents were expected to pay for my expenses. In high school, we had a soft drink machine for our speech club to earn money. Club members had to do all the ordering, stocking of drinks, etc. Other times we sold ad space in programs, ran a concession stand at games, or a bunch of other creative money making ideas.
What lesson for our children is there when they simply stand outside a store and ask for money? Teach them how to MAKE money. This is particularly true when it is an expense the parents should be covering.
A business may want to donate to organizations for goodwill or a tax deduction. So be it. That’s different. And certain truly charitable efforts deserve our consideration.
The verses from the Bible I am about to quote can be interpreted differently. I think The Message treats 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 perfectly for this lesson. “Stay calm; mind your own business; do your own job. You’ve heard all this from us before, but a reminder never hurts. We want you living in a way that will command the respect of outsiders, not lying around sponging off your friends.”
Put those kids to work to help pay for their extracurricular interests. You’ll wind up with better kids.
And, yes, I WILL have another peanut butter pattie. Or two.
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Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays, 4-6 pm on AM 1160 WYLL in Chicago. Check the web for WYLL and the app for AM 1160 to listen live. Or by podcast.